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Big Ten Notebook: Buckeyes facing Nittany Lions at wrong time?

BY MITCH SMITH | NOVEMBER 10, 2010 7:20 AM

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Joe Paterno is the first coach in Division-I football history to reach 400 wins, but the 83-year-old coach isn't taking any time to reflect on the accomplishment.

"I'm hoping we can get to 401, for crying out loud," Paterno said at his weekly press conference.

The Nittany Lions (6-3, 3-2) face one of their most difficult challenges of the season Saturday, traveling to Columbus for a 2:30 p.m. contest with No. 8 Ohio State.

But the Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1) could be in danger.

The youthful Penn State team is gaining experience and seems to be clicking at the right time. A squad that has seen 17 players make their first career starts this season has rattled off three-consecutive victories, including a comeback victory against Northwestern in which the Nittany Lions scored 35 unanswered points.

"Their football IQ is excellent. Now all they have needed is experience, and they've got nine games worth of experience," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "You can just see that incremental growth that has occurred on both sides of the ball and in their special teams."

This steady improvement is indicative of past Penn State teams, Tressel said.

The numbers agree.

Penn State has lost only five games in November dating back to 2004 and hasn't lost multiple games in the month since 2003.

"Every year — whether it's a highly experienced team or a team with maybe less experience — they get better as the year goes," Tressel said Tuesday during the Big Ten coaches' teleconference. "That's a mark of a well-schooled team."

With the emergence of sophomore Matt McGloin at quarterback, the Nittany Lion offense has increased its scoring output and limited its turnovers.

McGloin has tossed seven touchdowns and one interception over the last three games, compared with former starter Rob Bolden's five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Despite his team's improvement, Paterno isn't letting the Nittany Lions get overconfident. Paterno said his team still isn't on the same level as Ohio State — a team the Penn State coach called "one of the three, four best football teams in the country."

"It will be a good experience for us," he said. "Whether we can play with them or not, that's debatable. But I think just getting into a ball game like that, on the road, the whole bit, will be a good experience.

Hoosiers rallying around Belcher

Indiana was a Damarlo Belcher catch away from possibly defeating Iowa on Nov. 6.

Trailing the Hawkeyes 18-13 with under one minute to play, the wide-open junior wide receiver dropped a Ben Chappell pass in the end zone, resulting in a turnover on downs and a Hoosier loss.

The dropped pass potentially cost Indiana its first Big Ten win of the season, but the team isn't blaming Belcher's miscue for the loss.

Chappell and linebacker Tyler Replogle are the two permanent Indiana captains, but each week the Hoosiers elect two additional game captains.

This week, the squad unanimously voted Belcher as captain for Saturday's contest against Wisconsin.

"They're telling him they've got his back," Indiana head coach Bill Lynch said. "That's what makes a football team."


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